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N6497K accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.233330°N, 107.600000°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Grants, NM
35.147260°N, 107.851447°W
15.4 miles away
Tail number N6497K
Accident date 02 Aug 1999
Aircraft type Cessna 172P
Additional details: White/Red

NTSB Factual Report


On August 2, 1999, between 2020 and 0004 on August 3rd, mountain daylight time, a Cessna 172P, N6497K, operated by Robertson Aviation, Jenks, Oklahoma, was destroyed when it collided with terrain near Grants, New Mexico, while on a cross-country flight from Hawthorne, California, to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The private certificated, instrument rated, pilot, who was the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. The flight was operating under Title 14 CFR Part 91 and no flight plan was filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the area where the accident occurred.

According to documents provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, the pilot's family reported the aircraft overdue at its destination on August 4th. An alert notice (ALNOT) was issued and subsequently, a search was begun for the aircraft in the area around Winslow (INW), Arizona, which was the last confirmed location of the aircraft.

Reconstruction of pertinent portions of the flight provided information that the pilot contacted the Flagstaff airport control tower at 1854 and reported he was 9 miles southwest of the airport inbound for landing. The aircraft landed at 1901 and taxied to parking. Following fueling of the aircraft, the pilot called Flagstaff ground control at 1934 for taxi. He was told to taxi to runway 21 for departure. At 1938, the aircraft took off, made a left turnout, and departed the area eastbound.

The pilot contacted Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center (ABQ ARTCC) at 1949 and stated he was 12 miles east of Flagstaff at 9,500 feet. He requested flight following for a flight to Double Eagle (AEG) Airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The controller obtained the necessary information from the pilot to set up flight following and assigned a transponder beacon code of 0752. The controller established radar contact, issued the INW altimeter setting and advised the pilot that at 9,500 feet the aircraft would have intermittent radar contact.

At 1952, the controller advised the pilot that radar contact was lost and requested the pilot report over or abeam INW. The pilot acknowledged this instruction, and at 2006 the pilot reported the flight was abeam INW. The controller asked the pilot to "IDENT," followed by the information, at 2008, that radar contact was still not established and that the controller would keep the pilot advised. The pilot acknowledged this information.

Between 2003 and 2017, several primary (non beacon radar returns) were recorded, but the identity of the targets could not be confirmed without a beacon code. At 2017, a beacon return showing the aircraft to be at 9,300 feet and heading eastbound was recorded. One minute later, at 2018, a beacon return provided information that the aircraft was in a right descending turn and was passing through 9,000 feet. Several more beacon codes were received and showed the aircraft in a continuing descending right turn. The last beacon code from the aircraft was received at 2019 and gave the aircraft altitude as 8,500 feet on a westbound heading. At 2020, a primary target return was recorded along the projected aircraft track, which appeared to be proceeding towards the INW aircraft navigation aid. No further radar targets were recorded.

The controller attempted several radio contacts with the pilot but received no reply. At 2035, the controller removed the flight following strips from his board.

No further radio or radar contacts with the aircraft occurred.

On August 11, 1999, about 1830, the New Mexico State Police found the aircraft near Grants, New Mexico, on Mount Taylor, at the 10,600 foot level. The state police aircraft was in the area on another matter and was alerted by a weak emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal. Mount Taylor is approximately 161 miles from the point, near Winslow, where radar and communications contact was lost. The route and flight time from the last confirmed radar target of the aircraft to the location of the aircraft was not established


According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airmen records, the pilot was 20 years old. He held a private pilot certificate with a rating in aircraft single engine land issued on October 22, 1998. As of the date of inquiry, August 6, 1999, the FAA had no records concerning the pilot holding an instrument rating. However, documentation was found in the pilot's logbook and on documents in the pilot's personal effects found in the aircraft, which provided evidence that an instrument rating in airplanes was earned on July 13, 1999.

The pilot held a first class medical certificate issued on June 6, 1999, with the restriction that he wear corrective lenses.

A review of the pilot logbook provided the following information:

First logged instructional flight - October 20, 1997, in a Cessna 172.

Private pilot certificate practical test - October 22, 1998, in a Cessna 172. Total flight time when exam was given, 21 hours.

Instrument airplane practical test - July 13, 1999, in a Cessna 172. Total flight time when exam was given, 111 hours.

According to the pilot's logbook, at the time of the accident, the pilot had logged 213 total pilot hours, all of which was in Cessna 172 aircraft. He had 71 hours of cross-country flight time, 206 hours flight experience in daylight and 7 hours at night. His instrument experience was 3 hours actual, and 32 hours simulated. His pilot in command experience was 147 hours and he had 159 hours of dual instructional flight time.


The aircraft was a 1981 Cessna 172P, serial number 17274203. A Lycoming O-320-D2J engine, serial number RL-18587-39A, rated at 160 brake horsepower at sea level on a standard day powered it. The propeller was a McCauley DTM7557M1 75 inch, 2-bladed, fixed pitch aluminum alloy propeller, serial number 82422.

The aircraft had a seating capacity for 4 people and was equipped with dual flight controls. Maximum certificated gross weight for takeoff/landing was 2,400 pounds. The service ceiling was 13,000 feet above mean sea level and the aircraft's endurance (equipped with 40 usable gallon fuel tanks) ranged from 3.8 hours to 5.6 hours depending on the operating method and environment. Maximum range according to the flight manual is 520 miles. Average endurance for the operating conditions used was calculated to be 4.5 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION (temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit, distances in statute miles, and altitudes are in feet)

The closest reporting station to the accident was located at Albuquerque. Prior to the accident, the 2056 observation was wind from 330 degrees at 12 knots; visibility 10 miles; thunderstorm; ceiling 4,100 broken cumulonimbus clouds; 6,000 foot overcast skies; temperature 64; dew point 63; altimeter 30.31 inches of mercury (hg). Remarks - wind shift at 25; thunderstorm began at 44; rain began at 36, ended at 46; sea level pressure 1018.9 hectopascals; thunderstorm, frequent lightning in cloud and cloud to ground northwest, little movement; less than one-hundredth of an inch of precipitation fell since last hour; a trace of precipitation has fallen; temperature 64, dew point 62; a steady increase of 2.3 hectopascals.

The conditions near the calculated time of the accident taken at Albuquerque, provided by a 2156 observation was wind 360 at 3 knots; visibility 10 miles; thunderstorm, light rain; ceiling 6,500 broken cumulonimbus clouds, 8,500 overcast skies; temperature 66, dew point 62; altimeter 30.33 hg. Remarks - rain began at 26; sea level pressure 1019.0; thunderstorm, occasional lightning in clouds west through northwest, little movement; less than one hundredth of an inch of precipitation fell since last hour; temperature 67, dew point 67.

At 2232, the wind was calm; visibility 5 miles; thunderstorm, rain, mist; ceiling 2,100 broken cumulonimbus clouds, 7,000 overcast, temperature 66, dew point 63, altimeter 30.34 hg. Remarks - thunderstorm, occasional lightning in clouds west through northwest, little movement; seven hundredths of an inch of precipitation fell since last hour.

The radar summary chart for 2135 indicated the western half of New Mexico was almost completely covered with thunderstorms.

At 2003, an aircraft hazardous weather information Convective SIGMET Three West for Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas was issued over the air traffic control frequency that the accident aircraft was using.

According to the U. S. Forest Service manager in Grants, the weather conditions, the evening of the accident, were cloudy skies with thunderstorms.


Between Flagstaff, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, four aerial navigation aids are installed. Winslow is 44 miles 083 degrees from Flagstaff. The minimum en route altitude (mea) is 9,500 feet.

Between Winslow and Albuquerque there are four instrument airway routes with navigation aids. The most direct route is 080 degrees from Winslow, 81 miles to Zuni with a mea of 9,000 feet, and 073 degrees from Zuni, 115 miles to Albuquerque, with a mea of 11,000 feet.

There is a southern route which is 101 degrees from Winslow for 90 miles to Saint Johns with an mea of 8,900 feet and 059 degrees for 121 miles to Albuquerque with an mea of 11,500 feet.

A possible route taken by the accident aircraft (based on the location of the accident) was 061 degrees from Winslow for 98 miles to Gallup. On this leg, the mea is 9,000 feet changing to 9,400 feet when within 25 miles from Gallup. When departing Gallup, the route is 090 degrees for 104 miles to Albuquerque. On this leg the mea is 13,300 feet.

The remaining route is 075 degrees from Gallup for 60 miles to CROIN intersection 110 degrees from CROIN to Albuquerque for 49 miles. The mea is 11,000 feet. Based on the accident location, this is also a possible route.

The most prominent visual guide to flight between Winslow and Albuquerque is the interstate highway, which is four lanes. It passes south of Mount Taylor and to the south of Double Eagle Airport in Albuquerque.


After the accident aircraft departed Flagstaff, the only known communications were with ABQ ARTCC. A transcript of the communications is attached.


The accident site was a mountainside 10,600 feet above sea level. The slope was approximately 40 degrees and was covered with a dense pine forest with trees ranging to about 80 feet in height. Witness marks found during the on scene examination of the accident site provided evidence the aircraft impacted trees parallel to the slope, in a wings level attitude and created a track 230 feet in length oriented on a heading of 259 degrees. First contact was made with the right wing and right main landing gear, which separated from the aircraft. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator also separated during initial impact and remained lodged in the trees approximately 60 feet above ground level. The rest of the aircraft rotated to the right and went between two trees, which separated the cabin overhead and center wing section. The left wing also separated and was located approximately 20 feet from the main wreckage.

The engine remained attached and exhibited impact related damage to cylinders and accessories. The engine was removed for transport of the wreckage.

The propeller separated during impact and was found on the uphill side of the wreckage near the nose portion of the aircraft. One of the propeller blades was bent aft and exhibited chordwise scratches and paint removal. The other blade was bent aft at mid span and forward approximately 8 inches inboard from the blade tip. This blade also exhibited chordwise scratches and gouges. Several tree branches were found with smooth angular cuts across their diameter.

Additional specific documentation at the accident site is as follows: All flight control surfaces were accounted for. The flaps were in the up position and verified by the right flap actuator position. Elevator trim could not be verified due to jackscrew damage. The pilot's seat was separated from the track and emergency personnel had cut the seat belt. The shoulder harness remained attached to the cabin mount. The fuel selector was in "both." The gascolator screen was observed clean and free of contaminates. Both fuel tanks were compromised and no fuel was present. The altimeter was a 2-pointer type and both needles were separated. The Kolsman window had a setting of 30.24. The cabin heat switch was on. The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was intact but the antenna was separated. The battery due date was July 1999. The magnetos were on "both." The hour meter read 4468.0. The tachometer was at zero and 5236.9 hours. The throttle was in full power position, the mixture was in the "rich" position, the primer was locked in, and the carburetor heat was off. Flight instruments and radio settings were not readable.


The Office of the Medical Examiner, State of New Mexico, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The case number is 3868-899-13C.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aeronautical Medical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological tests. The results of the tests are attached to this report and provided no evidence pertinent to the investigation.


An examination of the engine was done at the facilities of Air Transport, Phoenix, Arizona, on November 16, 1999. The engine was placed on a hoist and external examination provided evidence of damage to the number 1 rocker box, and most of the push rods. The crankcase was fractured near the front governor-mounting pad, which in the engine application was not machined or used. The muffler and exhaust system were smashed and there was no evidence of exhaust shroud leakage. The carburetor inlet fuel screen was clean and the mixture control at the carburetor was near idle. The crankshaft rotated freely and all cylinders had compression. Both magnetos were Slick model 4371. They were intact and produced spark at all leads.

The carburetor was a Precision model MA-4SPA. It was attached, clean, and examination provided no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction.

The spark plugs were Champion REM 40E. Examination provided the following:

Top 1 - Broken/bent barrel, gray in color Bottom 1 - Damp with oil, gray in color Top 2 - Carbon debris, damp with oil, gray in color Bottom 2 - Damp with oil, gray in color Top 3 - Light gray to white in color Bottom 3 - Worn electrode, gray in color Top 4 - Damp with oil, gray in color Bottom 4 - Wet with oil, gray in color

All electrodes were slightly ovaled with #3 bottom spark plug exhibiting more advanced ovaling.

The ignition harness wires were attached to their respective spark plugs. The #2 top wire had impact damage. The harness tested to be operational.

The starter remained attached to its mounting pad. There were gouges on the gear and the starter gear was in the forward/extended position.

The alternator remained attached. Rotational rub markings were noted on the alternator housing from the fan.

The vacuum pump remained attached. There was no nut installed on the lower left mounting. The pump was free to rotate and suffered no internal damage.

The oil cooler received impact damage. The suction and pressure screens were clean and the oil lines were secure. The oil filter was free of contaminates and was marked with an installation date of July 16, 1999, at a tachometer time of 5191 hours.


The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on November 16, 1999. No parts were retained.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to fly the aircraft at an altitude sufficient to clear surrounding terrain. Factors were: The pilot's in-flight planning and decision making in proceeding into known adverse weather. Low ceiling, rain, lack of total pilot experience, and lack of total instrument time.

© 2009-2020 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.